Charlotte, NC: Food Fight for Charity

Sal’s Roadside Eatery is one of nine food trucks that will compete March 23. The others are The Chrome Toaster, the Tin Kitchen, Gourmet Goombahs, The Herban Legend, Papi Queso, Wingzza, Root Down and Roaming Fork. Each truck will serve two dishes to be judged by participants and a panel of judges. The contest will take place from noon to 4 p.m. March 23 at the NC Music Factory. COURTESY OF JOHN DENARIO

By Jessica Milicevic | Charlotte Observer

Sal’s Roadside Eatery is one of nine food trucks that will compete March 23. The others are The Chrome Toaster, the Tin Kitchen, Gourmet Goombahs, The Herban Legend, Papi Queso, Wingzza, Root Down and Roaming Fork. Each truck will serve two dishes to be judged by participants and a panel of judges. The contest will take place from noon to 4 p.m. March 23 at the NC Music Factory. COURTESY OF JOHN DENARIO
Sal’s Roadside Eatery is one of nine food trucks that will compete March 23. The others are The Chrome Toaster, the Tin Kitchen, Gourmet Goombahs, The Herban Legend, Papi Queso, Wingzza, Root Down and Roaming Fork. Each truck will serve two dishes to be judged by participants and a panel of judges. The contest will take place from noon to 4 p.m. March 23 at the NC Music Factory. COURTESY OF JOHN DENARIO

Some of the best food in Charlotte may be served from a small window on wheels.

Food trucks enjoy a high degree of popularity in the Queen City.

John Denario noticed the food truck trend on Twitter and wondered how he could leverage it into a Relay for Life fundraiser.

He and his team, The Island of Misfit Toys, have been participating in the fundraiser for six years and are always looking for new, interesting ways to raise money.

“I’d seen the trucks all over Twitter and then started noticing them on the Food Network,” Denario said.

“Our team doesn’t do little fundraisers. We like to stay active in the community with big events. I thought it would be great to have an event where all the food trucks could get together, but also do a cross-marketing thing for people who want to fight cancer.”

The Charlotte Food Fight, which takes place noon-4 p.m. March 23 at the NC Music Factory, will bring together nine food trucks for competition.

The Chrome Toaster, the Tin Kitchen, Gourmet Goombahs, The Herban Legend, Papi Queso, Wingzza, Root Down, Roaming Fork and Sal’s Roadside Eatery will all show up to out-cook one another.

There will be three contests: A Chef’s Choice, Best Bacon Dish and People’s Choice.

Each truck will provide a tasters sample of each dish instead of serving a full serving. Denario said they formed it that way on purpose.

“We didn’t want to serve full serving sizes and have people get full before they could taste everything,” he said. “A taster’s size isn’t huge, but 18 of them will fill you up fast.”

There will be five guest judges, including Drex and Cassidy of the radio station WNKS-FM (95.1),Chef Troy Galiardo of Fox Charlotte, Chef Ron Alhert of Community Culinary School of Charlotte, and personal chef to Cindy Crawford, Lucas Stretch.

The radio station will provide music and there also will be various games and giveaways.

The winner of the competition gets bragging rights and a set of Wusthov chef’s knives.

Robert Pizzo, owner and operator of Gourmet Goombah, said he’s determined to win.

“Competition is fun,” he said. “It keeps us all on our toes. But we are a pretty tight community and want each other to succeed. The better we all do, the better the food truck reputation is in Charlotte.”

A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Pizzo has been in Charlotte for eight years and started his truck last year. He has 27 years experience as a chef but said the food truck has been one of his favorite ventures.

“I really love working with the people,” he said. “The food truck combines the love of people and love of cooking, which is great. It’s sort of a by-the-people, for-the-people operation.”

For the Chef’s Choice competition, Pizzo will present the Hot Diggity Dog, a hot dog with caramelized onions, bacon and stuffed chili peppers imported from Italy. For the Best Bacon dish competition, he will present the Ditomazzo, a lightly breaded chicken cutlet sandwich with caramelized onions, bacon and basil with melted mozzarella cheese.

Pizzo said one of the aspects that drew him to the competition was the Relay for Life involvement.

“Anything you can do to help fight cancer is a good thing,” he said.

Last year, the Island of Misfit Toys raised nearly $15,000 for Relay for Life doing several events.

They hope this year the food truck event will raise that much on its own.

After they pay back the food trucks, all proceeds from ticket sales will go to Relay for Life.

Milicevic: 704-358-6043